Turkish prosecutor indicts Dutch freelancer Fréderike Geerdink

Istanbul, February 3, 2015–A Turkish prosecutor has indicted Dutch freelance journalist Fréderike Geerdink for “making propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), according to news reports. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, news reports said.

Geerdink has worked in Turkey since 2006 and has been based in Diyarbakır–the regional capital of Turkey’s largely ethnic Kurdish southeast–since 2012, according to her website. Geerdink freelances for several Dutch and international publications, and the independent Turkish news website Diken, where she writes a regular column. She reports on a range of topics, but focuses on the plight of the Kurdish minority, politics, and human rights in Turkey.

“We call on Turkish authorities to drop the case against Fréderike Geerdink immediately,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Covering sensitive issues is not a crime. The Turkish government should adhere to its international commitments to reform the country’s laws and stop prosecuting journalists in retaliation for their work, including activity on social media.”

The three-page indictment against Geerdink, dated February 1 and reviewed by CPJ today, cites unspecified social media posts and her Diken column in which the journalist allegedly praised the PKK and KCK while denigrating the Republic of Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Diyarbakır prosecutor Hakan Özdemir. The prosecutor also stated in the indictment that Geerdink was trying to portray Turkey as a country that helps the militant group Islamic State. If convicted, she could face up to five years in jail.

Turkey’s penal code and anti-terror law–applied individually and in combination–allow for vast interpretation of what constitutes terrorism or affiliation with terrorist groups, according to CPJ research.

The indictment comes after Diyarbakır terrorism police searched Geerdink’s home and detained and interrogated her on January 6 as part of an investigation into her alleged “propaganda for a terrorist organization,” that the prosecutor claimed she spread via social media, according to news reports. She was released after three hours. The testimony Geerdink gave police that day was partially included in the February 1 indictment. It said that Geerdink denied all accusations against her and stated that she was a journalist who had been posting her news stories and opinion pieces on social media. Her testimony said that covering the KCK was not a crime, and that many other journalists do it.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who was in Turkey on January 6, said at the time he was shocked by the raid on Geerdink’s home and would take up her case with his Turkish counterpart, according to news reports.

Ramazan Demir, the lawyer for Geerdink, told CPJ a court hearing has been scheduled for April 8.